Aging is a fact of life. Everyone gets older eventually, and sadly, that includes your dog. If the tiny puppy you brought home what seems like just a few weeks ago is now starting to show signs of aging, physically and mentally, the way you take care of them needs to evolve.
Elder pet care is different than puppy pet care. As time passes with your dog, there are some telltale signs that your furry friend is aging. Knowing the signs helps you make them more comfortable and keep them happy.
Mental Signs of Aging in Dogs
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “My old dog is acting strange,” then some of these mental signs of aging in your dog may be to blame. Some to look for are:
- Anxiety – Anxiety in older dogs is really common and a distinct sign of aging. The reason that dogs become more anxious as they age is that they begin to have cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), which is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. They become anxious because they don’t understand what’s happening around them anymore.
- Confusion and disorientation – Confusion and disorientation are other symptoms of aging and can be related to CDS. As dogs age and their cognitive function decrease, their memories can lapse, leading to confusion and disorientation.
- Changes in the sleep-wake cycle – As dog’s age, they need more sleep. You’ll probably find your dog taking longer and more frequent naps throughout the day. On the other hand, your elderly dog might get more energy at night, when everyone else is sleeping.
- Fear of familiar places and people – Another side effect of age-related CDS in dogs is that they can become fearful of people and places that were once familiar to them. This is, again, due to lapses in memory, and they become scared of things that they don’t remember.
- More barking and vocalization – Anxiety in older dogs can also be to blame for an increase in barking, whining, and howling. Older dogs are prone to separation anxiety, which leads to barking and whining.
Physical Signs of Aging in Dogs
Beyond the mental challenges that come with aging, dogs can physically deal with the following, too:
- Weight change – As dog’s age, it’s normal that their energy levels decrease which can make exercise more difficult. This can occasionally cause dogs to gain weight, but weight loss is actually a more common issue for older dogs. It’s important to watch for extreme weight loss as that can be a sign of disease, but some degree of weight loss is normal for dogs as they get older.
- Incontinence – When dogs get older, they start having more accidents and occasionally have a difficult time going to the bathroom. Incontinence in older dogs is typically from urinary tract infections, CDS, or kidney problems.
- New bumps and lumps – Another sign that your dog is aging is the growth of new bumps and lumps on their bodies. These can be a few things such as fatty tumors, mast cell tumors, cysts, warts, or an abyss. If your elderly dog has a lot of new bumps and lumps, it’s important to take them to see your vet rule out cancer.
- Difficulty moving around – Dogs can become stiffer and less agile with age, too. Some of this is caused by degenerative disease and arthritis, which makes it more painful for them to move. You can help ease the pain for your dog by getting a sling, going for slower and shorter walks, and getting a heating pad for them.
- Bad breath – Most animals have pretty bad breath in general, but if your older dog suddenly gets bad breath, they might have gum disease, tooth decay, or an infection in their mouths. Dental care should be top a priority for the entirety of your pet’s life.
Why Your Dog Needs Dental Care
Providing your dog with adequate dental care is one of the best things you can do to properly care for them. Good dental hygiene prevents dental disease, which can hurt your dog’s health in a variety of ways and even shorten their lifespans.
Our dogs have much shorter lifespans than we do. To find out more about caring for your aging dog, contact us today.